What’s The Proper Lighting and Heating Setup For Crested Geckos?
Their cute looks, ease of care, and ability to live at “room temperature” have made the Crested Gecko one of the most popular reptile pets to keep. Even though these critters are famed for living at room temperature - is room temperature best for them? And what is “room temperature?” We will be taking a deep dive into the lighting and heating requirements of a Crested Gecko!
There is not one “correct” way to set up lighting for a Crested Gecko. What works for some, may not work for you. It is important to factor in the ambient temperature of your space when choosing lighting. If your room is naturally warm, it may not be safe to add additional lighting to your gecko’s enclosure. If your room is cool, you may need to add more lighting to raise the enclosure temperature to a more desirable temperature.
What Lights Are Best For Crested Geckos?
Crested Geckos do not require UVB or full spectrum lighting to survive. However, there is evidence that offering UVB light at proper strength and distance can be beneficial for animals that do not necessarily require UV light to survive.
A low level UVB bulb made for shade dwelling species is ideal for a Crested Gecko. UVB should be mounted above the screen with no glass or plastic underneath, as UV cannot penetrate glass, plastic, or other solid materials. Refer to the distance guide provided by the manufacturer for the proper distance for your UV light. If you are using a UVI meter, you will want to aim for 1.0 or less UVI output where your gecko will be able to access the light.
Ideal UVB bulbs for Crested Geckos are:
- ZooMed 5.0 T8 linear UVB
- Arcadia 6% UVB
- Arcadia ShadeDweller
You may also choose to offer a full spectrum light to your Crested Gecko, especially if your Crested Gecko will be living in a bioactive enclosure. UVB does not benefit plant growth and will not sustain the life of plants; this is where a full spectrum grow light comes in. Full spectrum lights provide beneficial output that replicates the color spectrum of the sun to produce growth for plants. Additionally, full spectrum lights will benefit your gecko by giving them a natural light spectrum.
If you are trying to raise the temperature in your enclosure if your room is cool, using a UVB and full spectrum light may raise the temperature in the enclosure 10-15ºF+ at the top of the enclosure and make a natural, low level heat source and thermal gradient in the enclosure. Additionally, if your room is naturally warmer, you should closely monitor the temperature of the enclosure when adding these lights to ensure the ambient temperature does not exceed 80ºF, which can kill a Crested Gecko if they are unable to escape the heat. It is best to remove your animal from their enclosure and allow your lights to heat up for several hours and then take a measurement using a digital probe thermostat and infrared temperature gun once the lights have been given time to reach full capacity.
Do Crested Geckos Need Night Lights?
No, Crested Geckos do not need night lights. In fact, adding night lights may disturb the circadian rhythm of your gecko. Crested Geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. They will eat, hunt, and explore during the hours of dim light and darkness. Contrary to previous belief, reptiles can see red, blue, and black light. It is best to leave light sources off at night so your gecko can have a natural photoperiod.
Crested Geckos should have 14 hours of light in warmer months, and 10 hours of light in colder months. The shorter light cycle in the cooler months will offer your gecko a natural cooling cycle that is similar to what they would experience in their natural habitat. A proper light cycle will encourage seasonal regulation, improve appetite, and promote overall health.
Do Crested Geckos Need A Basking Light?
No, typically Crested Geckos do not require a basking light. Crested Geckos are a temperature sensitive species. Their ambient temperature should stay below 80ºF, as temperatures in the low to mid 80’s without chance to escape the heat can cause heat stress, heat stroke, and death within a fairly short period of time. That being said, Crested Geckos do benefit from a thermal gradient where they are able to regulate their body temperature. Offering a warm area towards the top of the enclosure, with the lower portion of the enclosure as a cool area to retreat from the heat. For most homes, a UVB and full spectrum light will offer the ideal thermal gradient for a Crested Gecko.
- Warm area (top of enclosure) — 82-85°F (28-29°C)
- Cool area (bottom of enclosure) —70-75°F (21-24°C)
- Nighttime temperature — 65-72°F (18-22°C)
If your temperatures warrant the use of a heat source, it should always be hooked to a thermostat to ensure safety. Starting with a very low wattage incandescent or halogen bulb hooked to a dimmer and a thermostat can be a good place to start. Keep in mind, in smaller enclosures or grow out enclosures, it may not be possible to offer UVB or full spectrum lighting without the enclosure overheating. In these instances, it is safer to not offer lighting than to risk overheating your enclosure.
Remember, it is safer for a Crested Gecko to be a bit too cool than a bit too warm.
Humidity Levels For Crested Geckos:
Crested Geckos thrive between 60-80% humidity. This can be maintained with daily misting and a moisture-retentive substrate. Make sure to let it dry out to around 50% or even 40% before misting again—constant moisture encourages mold and mildew growth, which can make your gecko sick.
Misting is also the best way to make sure your gecko stays hydrated, as while they will drink out of a dish occasionally, they vastly prefer to lick water droplets off plants and the enclosure walls.
Depending on how well your terrarium holds humidity, mist at least once in the evening, and then again in the morning if needed. Your gecko will drink the droplets off the terrarium walls and decorations. Do not use distilled, softened, or even filtered water for misting. Tap water contains minerals that are vital to your gecko’s health. Yes, this means you’ll have to clean up water spots, but it’s worth it.
PRO TIP: Hard water deposits come off easily when you scrub with a lemon juice-soaked cotton ball. Severe buildup can be scraped off with a razor blade.
Do Crested Geckos Need Heat At Night?
Generally speaking, no - Crested Geckos do not need heat at night. A nighttime temperature drop into the mid-60’s is completely fine and safe for a Crested Gecko. If your house temperature falls below the low 60’s, you may want to consider either using a low wattage ceramic heat emitter on a thermostat, or a small space heater with a thermostat in the room with your gecko. It is important to always have heat sources hooked to proper thermostats as Crested Geckos are incredibly heat sensitive.